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How the 2018 NWHL Draft could make an immediate impact

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The 2018 NWHL Draft could change the outcome of this season

Pat McCarthy

On Dec. 13 the NWHL announced details for the 2018 NWHL Draft, which will take place on Dec. 18 and Dec. 19. Since its inception, the relevance of the NWHL Draft has been questioned. But we’re also seeing more NWHL draft picks play in the NWHL, and there’s no denying that the draft has had an intriguing impact on the last two seasons.

There are seven players from the 2017 NWHL Draft playing with the teams that drafted them, and another four — Amy Schlagel, Toni Ann Miano, Denisa Křížová, and McKenna Brand — who are playing with other NWHL teams. The 2016 NWHL Draft produced 10 players who played in the NWHL, including 2019 NWHL All-Star captain Lee Stecklein.

Still skeptical about the relevance NWHL Draft? That’s all right, we understand. But you should still be paying attention on Wednesday, because the draft still takes before the 2019 Isobel Cup Playoffs begin. And that means there is a real chance it could impact the 2018–19 season and/or the Isobel Cup Playoffs.

The NWHL might be a young league, but there’s already a clear tradition of players going pro shortly after their senior seasons in the NCAA are over. We’ve seen it happen most notably with 2018 NWHL Rookie of the Year Hayley Scamurra and 2017 first round draft pick Kelsey Koelzer. Mary Parker, Mallory Souliotis, and Sam Donovan were also signed directly after completing their NCAA careers.

Parker is the only player from that group who wasn’t drafted by the team she joined after completing her collegiate career. The other four all joined the teams that selected them the year that they were drafted.

At the moment, four of the NWHL’s five teams have roster spots open to add a freshly drafted rookie. The Whale are one of those four clubs. There’s a chance head coach Ryan Equale will add Colleen Murphy after her PTO, like he did with Taylor Marchin in November. If that happens, Murphy would be the Whale’s 25th and final roster player — but Connecticut might have some flexibility because Randi Griffin has yet to report to the team.

The Metropolitan Riveters, Buffalo Beauts, and Boston Pride all have three roster spots still available. And that means that there’s plenty of opportunity for all three teams to bolster their rosters.

Riveters head coach Randy Velischek and Beauts general manager Nik Fattey have both commented that they are looking into adding to their rosters. And, given Equale’s use of PTOs this year and the signing of Taylor Marchin on Nov. 2, we can safely assume that he will be looking at the draft as an opportunity to improve his team. He did just that last season by signing Donovan.

The Pride might not have any glaring weakness on their roster, but that shouldn’t stop Paul Mara from adding more depth through the draft. After all, the Pride signed three of their own draft picks from the 2017 Draft as well as signing three players who were selected by other teams. Boston also added Souliotis late last season after she finished her senior season at Yale.

So, we should keep an eye out for players drafted from programs close in proximity to the NWHL’s original four franchises and/or players who have roots in the northeast. If New York native and Clarkson University senior T.T. Cianfarano weren’t already a draft pick of the Riveters in 2017, she would be exactly the kind of player to watch out for. The good news for those of us who enjoy some intrigue is that there are plenty of other players who fit that criteria.